What are sinuses?

The sinuses are cavities, or air-filled pockets, near the nasal passage. Like the nasal passage, the sinuses are lined with mucous membranes. There are four different types of sinuses:

Illustration of the sinuses
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What is sinusitis?

Sinusitis is an infection of the sinuses near the nose. These infections usually occur after a cold or after an allergic inflammation. There are four types of sinusitis:

What causes sinusitis?

Sometimes, a sinus infection happens after an upper respiratory infection (URI) or common cold. The URI causes inflammation of the nasal passages that can block the opening of the paranasal sinuses, and result in a sinus infection. Allergies can also lead to sinusitis because of the swelling of the nasal tissue and increased production of mucus. There are other possible conditions that can block the normal flow of secretions out of the sinuses and can lead to sinusitis including the following:

When the flow of secretions from the sinuses is blocked, bacteria may begin to grow. This leads to a sinus infection, or sinusitis. The most common bacteria that cause sinusitis include the following:

What are the symptoms of sinusitis?

The symptoms of sinusitis depend greatly on the age of the child. The following are the most common symptoms of sinusitis. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

Younger children

Older children and adults

The symptoms of sinusitis may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

*One 2002 study has found that nine out of 10 physician-diagnosed or self-described sinus headaches are actually migraine-related. The researchers found that the participants described the classic symptoms of pain in the front of the face and pressure under the eyes. However, the participants lacked other symptoms of a true sinus infection, including yellow or green discharge and fever. In addition, not every migraine has telltale symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

How is sinusitis diagnosed?

Generally, your child's physician can diagnose sinusitis based on your child's symptoms and physical examination. In some cases additional tests may be performed to confirm the diagnosis. These may include:

What is the treatment for sinusitis?

Specific treatment for sinusitis will be determined by your child's physician based on:

Treatment of sinusitis may include the following:

Antibiotics may be withheld for 10 to 14 days, unless severe symptoms develop, such as: fever, facial pain or tenderness, or swelling around the eye. Surgery should be considered only if other treatments have failed.

Referral to an allergist/immunologist is often needed, particularly for people with chronic or recurrent sinusitis and for patients who have had sinus surgery, but still experience sinusitis.

Antihistamines do not help the symptoms of sinusitis unless an allergy is involved.

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